Those who never heard

In a lecture on apologetics, we stumbled into the problem of the judgement of the uninformed. That those who’ve never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus can’t accept him and the gift of redemption, therefore, they will be condemned to hell.

The question was opened to the us all in the room, and we shared very familiar answers, but they were still incomplete. There is an injustice that was still unaddressed. Something started formulating in my mind (unfortunately too slowly to be part of my two mic-hogging sessions of the morning). I don’t think I’ve read this argument before, so I thought I’d share it with you in case you haven’t read it before either.

We have free will to choose Jesus, yes. But we also have the freedom to choose to prevent others maliciously, accidentally, or simply by inaction from hearing the message at all. The positive side of this is the reason for Christian mission. We go so they hear. But the negative side is rarely mentioned. We didn’t go, so they didn’t hear.

We don’t like to think of our actions having negative consequences for others around and after us, but nothing we do is in isolation. The bible mentions this. Though children don’t have to bear the guilt of the sins of their ancestors, they do have to bear the consequences of their actions. Jesus talks about people causing others to stumble in their faith. (Extra credit: find the references yourself.)

We can trace the causes for the uninformed’s condemnation back to the free actions of others. Adam and Eve for the original disobedience, those at Babel for creating a situation where communication needed to become difficult and humanity spread, active Anti-christians throughout history (e.g. Dawkins), and actively wrong or merely inactive Christians throughout history, including today, including me.

You could say: ‘but God has the power to just appear to people, he shouldn’t be relying on humans’. And I think he does do that occasionally, I have heard more than one story (second-hand) of Jesus revealing himself to searching people without the presence of missionaries - but that is a tiny minority because people are usually not ready for that level of revelation.

It’s not fair, yes. but the fault is not God’s. We know the only way to redemption is through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He entrusted us with the task of spreading the news. If people don’t have the opportunity to respond to that then the fault is ours.

The fault is ours. The injustice is ours. We have to own this, repent for it, and work as hard as we can to prevent it from continuing. Go into all the world!

P.S. The evening lecture on apologetics after I wrote the above was continually drawn to Free-will vs Pre-determination, I stayed quiet and noted that that is something I haven’t studied enough - obviously what I’ve said here is all nonsense to someone who believes free will is nothing more than an illusion (a view I haven’t really been faced with before).